Take for example the conversation on technology -- older generations and women are told OUT of them, yet they're very much in there. Women are early adopters. In a Q&A for Bryn Mawr alumni bulletin [hat tip to Constance Semler], Intel's Genevieve Bell talks about what I called uploading humanism:
Women mastered the first round of what were in some ways intensely unreliable gadgets—refrigerators, washing machines, ovens. They became similar custodians of telephones and television. They led the way in driving mobile phones from road warriors into the general population. I am always interested about the way we tell the story that erases women’s technology prowess—in no small part because most of the technologies women mastered became invisible very quickly. They became appliances. We took away the sexiness of mastering them.
Does technology fail us? Asked from its perspective, do we fail technology?
Today, the most important stuff happening with technology is happening outside the US. Bell says in 1999, 70 percent of the world’s Internet users were based in North America. By 2009, it was less that 16 percent. In India, getting a husband is a database problem.
Bell is co-author of a recent book on with Prof. Paul Dourish of UC Irvine of Divining a Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing (MIT Press, 2011; Amazon affiliate link), which I'm planning to read given my involvement with brand strategy and technology in organizations.
Role of the participant-observer
Take the idea of ubiquitous computing and transfer that to the chief participant-observer.
This is someone who can speak more than one language and uses it daily. She is able to both participate in the culture and communications of an organization and observe its behaviors and those of its interactions.
Participant observation is a qualitative method with roots in traditional ethnographic research, whose objective is to help researchers learn the perspectives held by study populations. A very useful role for the future of work inside organizations, and as embed externally, in social media.
Mature brand strategy
A role I created when working with more mature brands in search of growth. The reinvention and innovation start with learning to see and tell a different story based upon the new place where the organization finds itself, and the context it seeks to re-create.
With a mature brand that is looking to reinvent its way to growth, in addition to the smart decisions the business needs to make, you can change the game by waging a war of movement. And many younger brands are doing that successfully today.
What does war of movement mean? You:
- own the movement, a direction
- reflect flexibility and speed in holding the course
- bring customers on a journey, a specific path moving forward
The game is about who is going where. Organizations immersed in these dynamics may also find that integrating new media and learning to become more social beyond customer care will serve them well.
Having worked in mature industries with mature brands, I also found that movement allows you to do several positive things that can help you grow the business. You:
- focus more on creating and energizing
- capitalize from collaboration with customers, partners, even competitors
- promote your vision as a way to provide direction
- see more opportunities along the way
To sum it up, you do your own thing and are not totally preoccupied with fighting someone else's battle.
There is no substitue for seeing and participating directly in human interaction. This is what makes integration of technology in our environment at the point of use so powerful.
The role of the participant-observer is useful for gaining an understanding of the physical, social, cultural, and economic contexts in which people live. As well, it makes observable the relationships among and between people, contexts, ideas, norms, and events.
How many companies realize the importance of rounding out their understanding of customers -- their behaviors and activities -- what they do, how frequently, and with whom, and of their contexts?